Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | June 16, 2016 |


How Not to Blow the Skype for Business User Experience

How Not to Blow the Skype for Business User Experience If you're responsible for a Skype for Business rollout, be sure to get involved in the end user training and not just the IT stuff.

If you're responsible for a Skype for Business rollout, be sure to get involved in the end user training and not just the IT stuff.

Quick quiz: Does it matter which USB port an end user plugs her headset into when doing a voice call over Skype for business on her PC/laptop? The answer, according to Kevin Kieller of enableUC, is: "It could."

Kevin offered this surprising nugget of information at this week's Enterprise Connect Summit Series event in New York, a one-day gathering of IT/communications professionals that we've been running the past several years in partnership with vendors from the Skype for Business ecosystem. One of Kevin's presentations for the day was on do's and don'ts of Skype for Business rollouts, and one piece of advice he kept coming back to was the need to understand the user's experience, and the importance of IT really listening to end users when they talk about that experience.

If you don't do that, Kevin said, users may have bad experiences with Skype for Business and blame the system. They may report bad voice quality and send you off on a mission to troubleshoot something within Skype for Business, or maybe within your underlying IP network, when in fact the problem lies with something the end user is doing.

So, Kevin said, if you're responsible for Skype for Business rollout, you should make sure to be involved in the end user training in addition to overseeing the IT-driven rollout. And he gave the example of the USB ports. A user in a training session might ask: "Does it matter which of the USB ports I plug my headset into?" The IT person says: "Of course not." That, Kevin said, might be the right answer -- or it might be wrong.

USB 2.0 ports may perform differently than USB 3.0 ports with different types of headsets, and if it's possible that only one USB port on a machine has been upgraded to 3.0 then, yes, it could matter into which port you plug the headset.

This topic even came up in a call I did with Kevin a few months ago over Skype for Business. We were planning content for the Summit Series and had connected via voice on the system. We were talking about this particular session and this particular issue, and Kevin said to me, "There are people who use their iPhone headsets on their PCs in Skype for Business calls." As I removed and examined one of the ear buds from my own iPhone headset, I felt sort of sheepish, as if he'd said, "Believe it or not, there are actually adults who watch 'SpongeBob' while they're working out on the elliptical."

"But our call sounds fine," I said to Kevin at the time. "There's no voice quality issue."

"It works," Kevin said. "Until it doesn't." By which he didn't mean that my Skype for Business voice calls on iPhone headsets were destined to eventually break down -- he meant at the macro, enterprise level. The setup may work fine for the vast majority of users, but eventually you'll wind up with a user whose particular combination of hardware and interface devices will just be suboptimal, and that person will have lower quality of experience -- and IT may have a hard time figuring out why.

It's the downside -- admittedly, one of the few -- of moving away from a world where all you had was a PBX, and all you could talk into was a desk phone manufactured by that PBX vendor. That old-school benefit pales next to today's benefit of greater user choice in opting for devices and media that they prefer, but it does have the potential for these unintended consequences.

Kevin will be repeating his do's and don'ts presentation, alongside loads of other great content, at our second and final event in the Summit Series next week, Wednesday, June 22, in downtown Chicago. If you're in the neighborhood, I encourage you to stop in for a day that'll be chock-full of detailed presentations on Skype for Business. You can register for the event here. Hope to see you in our hometown!

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